Swedes Continue Trying to Sell Gripen Aircraft to Croatia, Ready to Lower Price

Lauren Simmonds

Updated on:

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, after the ad hoc Advisory Interdepartmental Commission for the Procurement of a Multipurpose Fighter Aircraft was submitted to the Croatian Government in mid-December last year, it submitted a “Feasibility Study for the Procurement of a Multipurpose Fighter Plane (VBA)”.

Although the Commission was expected to reach a conclusion that the government would then only confirm, possibly seeking Parliament’s approval afterwards – as was the case with the last tender in which the Israeli Barak was selected, the conclusion was that the body considered the optimal choice to be the used French Rafale aircraft, and for the new American F-16 Block 70/72. Therefore, a decision was made that there is no decision, and that the responsibility for the choice has now been transferred to the Croatian Government, although it was confirmed that all of the offered aircraft fully meet all Croatian technical and tactical needs.

An offset of one billion euros

As expected, a used Israeli-American F-16 Barak dropped out of the game because it was clear to everyone even before the tender that the offer was meaningless. The reason for this is the previous unsuccessful purchase of that aircraft from Israel, as well as the fact that these are temporary aircraft that would be about 40 years old at the time of delivery to Croatia.

That this was clear to everyone is also showcased by the fact that Israel didn’t actually lobby for its planes, and the Americans submitted their offer for the sake of keeping order.

A much bigger surprise was the write-off of the Swedish Gripen aircraft, although it was obvious at the beginning that almost all of the bidders are strong players, some in a geopolitical sense and some in an economic sense, and that any losers could cause some problems in the political and economic global arena. Although it’s clear to everyone that the Rafale and F-16s are larger and more powerful, and of course more expensive fighter jets than the Swedish Gripen aircraft, the Swedes are the only ones who have made a concrete offer for economic cooperation with Croatia.

Among other things, in an interview with Poslovni Dnevnik, those at the helm of Saab, the manufacturer of the Gripen aircraft, and the Swedish arms agency FMV, said they were ready to invest half of the total price of the Gripen aircraft into the Croatian economy. If it’s known that the basic price of these Gripen aircraft stands at around one billion euros, and the costs of its maintenance, armament and use would be the same, it’s clear that the Swedes would invest around one billion euros in Croatia in some form of offset.

The Americans offered cooperation with six unspecified Croatian companies that the F-16 aircraft manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, would include in its global supply chain. In addition to the F-16, the company also produces F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, as well as C-130 Hercules and C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft, and has other missile and space divisions too.

France’s offer is the biggest mystery of all. Although in unofficial talks with military officials and other bidders, one may get the impression that the Rafales are the favourites of the Croatian Government, nothing is publicly known about their offer, both in a financial sense with regard to the aircraft, weapons and equipment, nor about about possible reverse economic cooperation or offsets.

A campaign in Brussels

Over recent, semi-official information has been circulating in the public eye, which no one wants to officially comment on, and that’s that the Swedes allegedly aren’t intending to give up with their Gripen aircraft offer to Croatia easily because they’re convinced that the Croatian tender has been rigged.

Namely, the Swedes, according to that source, are allegedly offering Croatia a loan with zero percent interest and a two-year grace period to pay the first installment of the loan. Reportedly, they’re ready to lower their current price of 900 million euros for the entire package (aircraft, equipment, weapons, training and logistics). On the other hand, according to that same source, a campaign is planned to be launched in Brussels due to the alleged promotion of one bidder by HDZ.

Alleged ”proof” of this is offered by the fact that the ruling HDZ newspaper has, in the past, published unsigned ”fan articles”, for which it isn’t entirely clear whether they were paid or journalistic, in which the Gripen aircraft and the Swedish offer were apparently ”satanised”.

It’s therefore very difficult to say what will happen next in the seemingly endless Gripen aircraft, Croatia-Sweden story, but it is certain that a lowered price will be of interest to some.

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